Thousands of New York Healthcare Workers Got Vaccinated Prior to Mandate
At nursing homes alone, 8,700 employees got inoculated before the vaccine mandate went into effect Monday.
NEW YORK, N.Y. — In the days and hours leading up to New York’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers that went into effect Monday, thousands of hospital and nursing home employees got inoculated to keep their jobs.
Before the mandate went into effect at midnight Monday, an estimated 83,000 of the state’s hospital workers were not vaccinated, reports CBS News. Hospitals reported 84% of their workers were vaccinated as of Wednesday — up from 81% on Sept. 15.
Some hospital networks, including Northwell Health, have already fired more than two dozen employees for non-compliance. The remaining unvaccinated workers have 30 days to get the shot or will lose their jobs.
Steven Corwin, president and CEO at New York-Presbyterian Hospitals, one of the largest systems in the U.S., said before its own vaccination deadline last week, 30% of staff were unvaccinated. Following the deadline, less than 1% refused to get vaccinated and gave their resignation.
“So out of 48,000 employees and affiliated physicians, we have less than 220 that have not chosen to get the vaccine,” he said.
At Buffalo’s Erie County Medical Center, approximately 5% of the staff, which amounts to roughly 400 people, are unvaccinated and on leave. The mass firing has resulted in the cancellation of elective inpatient surgeries and some other services. Elective patient surgeries at the hospital bring in about $1 million per week, said spokesman Peter Cutler.
“We stopped some of our outpatient patient visits. We stopped ICU medical transfers from other referral rural hospitals,” said Tom Quatroche, president and CEO. “We’ve asked for more time to work on strategies with the state to ensure that as many people as possible get vaccinated.”
Catholic Health, one of the largest healthcare providers in Western New York, said Monday that it was in full compliance with the state mandate and that it was forced to postpone only a “small number” of elective surgeries, according to Reuters.
At Strong Memorial Hospital, Rochester’s largest hospital, CEO Kathy Parrinello said she anticipated less than 300 clinical workers would remain unvaccinated and that those who made the choice to resign rather than be vaccinated would be welcomed back if they changed their minds.
Rochester Regional Health said in a statement that it was nearing a 99% vaccine mandate compliance among its staff, including an undisclosed number given religious or medical exemptions. Westchester Medical Center Health Network reported 94% had complied as of Sunday.
During the final push for vaccines, state data shows approximately 8,700 nursing home employees also chose to comply, according to lohud.com. From Wednesday to Sunday, the percentage of nursing home staff receiving at least one dose of the vaccine increased from 83% to 89%.
Of the state’s 145,000 nursing home workers, 16,000 have not complied with the mandate, which has created concerns about staffing shortages impacting care for residents. Some nursing homes have put new resident admissions on hold.
On Monday, Governor Kathy Hochul urged the remaining unvaccinated medical workers to “do the right thing” and get vaccinated.
“Today is a significant deadline. It reflects my priority to just stop this virus dead in its track,” she said during a media briefing. “We’re not relenting. We’re not backing off.”
In an emergency plan released Saturday, Hochul said she would deploy vaccinated workers from other states or National Guard medical workers to fill in staffing gaps at hospitals and nursing homes.
Several hospital administrators at larger downstate health systems have asserted employee resignations or firings would have a limited impact on services for patients. However, smaller hospitals upstate will struggle to avoid service disruptions, Hochul said.
“My heart breaks for the nurses and other individuals who’ve done the right thing, and who now know not everyone is being persuaded to do the right thing and they now have to work harder,” she added. “It is not going to be a perfect situation but, again, it’s preventable.”
Healthcare workers who are fired for refusing to get vaccinated will not be eligible for unemployment unless they are able to provide a valid doctor-approved request for medical exemption.